“What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community”

logo57th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

He confessed it. Total admission. Put it right out there. No hiding.

“I love to walk.”

That was Wally Trimble at the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event.

“Hear, Hear,” a flock of Gadfly followers assented, “We’ll drink to that!”

Much on our minds on this blog.

But a ways to go, says Wally.

  • “I love to walk.”
  • “I wish it were a more walkable community.”
  • “We have a great trail system . . .”
  • “Our crosswalks seem designed as kill zones.”
  • “There are a lot of really dangerous places . . . “
  • “The best way to see [our] neighborhoods is to walk.”
  • “It makes us feel better just to talk with a stranger.”
  • “If everybody was out walking around and talking with each other . . .”
  • “What I see happening isn’t really promoting a walkable community.”

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town”

logo56th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

After that discussion of “place” in Bethlehem, Sharon Brown guided the denizens of Godfrey Daniels after the Festival UnBound’s “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” performance to the topic of “race” with this startling statement:

“There’s not really a place where people of color who look like me gather in this town.”

  • “It’s important to have a presence.”
  • “If you don’t have a presence, you can’t make a change, and nobody is going to invite you to the table to have a conversation.”
  • I’m continuing to think about as we look into the future how do we engage and make our world a truly more inclusive community.”
  • “How do I and others and other allies help to get folks to develop a critical consciousness, so that when you are doing a program you are making sure that you are including The Other and whoever that Other is at the table in the performance.”
  • “We have to do better.”
  • “After being here all these years, it is still a majority community governed by majority people, and all the Arts are still majority dominated and don’t engage other voices to be at the table.”
  • “It’s as though there’s this invisibility that occurs.”
  • “Where are the people who look like me?”
  • “Since we have this conversation, remember that there is a level of invisibility that exists throughout the entire Lehigh Valley but especially in Bethlehem no matter what side you are on.”

The audience went quiet for a bit, as if in thought.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Do you think this is a city of two cities?”

logo55th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

A quiet voice fairly timidly took the mic:

“I have a question . . . do you think this is a city of two cities?

And thus began in earnest the discussion after “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers.”

The room got right to the question of identity that we sometimes seem unable to settle.

Are we the tale of two cities?

Are we the wail of two cities?

Northside and Southside–

And the conversation jumped quickly to an even greater multiplicity of cities within our city!

  • “There are three sides of town: Northside, Southside, and Lehigh.”
  • “There’s the Eastside . . . another neighborhood that everybody forgets.”
  • “In any town, there are many towns . . . for any town, any community to go forward, it has to recognize it’s a good thing and a bad thing that there are more than one town in that town . . . It can be diversity and opportunity if we recognize and try to bring those communities together and take strength from that rather than trouble.”

Ahhh, this is a rich subject that you must have some feelings about.

Lehigh as a third side of town?

Badaboom!

Share?

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Nobody’s going to save us . . . we’re going to have to fight for our community”: the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” panel

logo54th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

So Gadfly set up for you the panel conversations about the future of Bethlehem after Festival UnBound’s “Prometheus / Redux” and “The Secret.”

Here we’ll introduce the panel and significant audience participation of the “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers” event and in a following post the panel after “Hidden Seed,” which Gadfly almost forgot about since he didn’t get any video.

Gadfly is first setting these panels up for you and then will come back for closer looks.

PT&T at the intimate Godfrey Daniels on 4th St. was an hour or so of original music by Godfrey Danielslocal folk singers and composers that was followed by a like amount of time for a panel with audience participation.

Panel members were Bill George (Touchstone wizard), Bob Watts (poet, Lehigh U English Department), Paul Walsh (Charter Arts Artistic Director), Geoff Gehman (arts journalist), and Anne Hills (folk singer).

In setting up the first two panels, we’ve heard shorthand descriptions of the guiding purpose of the entire Festival as generating “a sense of ‘we’ that we have never accomplished before” and envisioning “how we move forward as people committed to building a better Bethlehem.”

Here Bill George frames once again the first principles and principal motivation for the massive 10-day Festival.

  • “The purpose is to use our art as a way of bringing us together to express our feelings and thoughts about who we are as individuals and as a community and somehow where we’re going and to help it generate conversation among ourselves as to what kind of community we really want.”
  • “Like Stephanie’s [Stephanie Watts] novel, nobody’s coming to save us.”
  • “This music . . . calls us to understand that we have a job if we want this town, that we want our community, we’re going to have to fight for it, and the fight isn’t really with other people, it’s with ourselves not just to sit back and let it go.”

Much more on this event in later posts.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

The “Prometheus / Redux” panel tackling the question of how Bethlehem moves forward

logo53rd in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatrelogo

There was lots and lots of entertainment during the 10 days of Touchstone Theatre’s “Festival UnBound,” which closed last Sunday night. There were plays, there were poets, there was a marching band, there was joyful noise.

But there was also lots and lots of conversation on the future of Bethlehem.

Even the entertainment was that conversation in a sense.

But there were formal conversations.

Conversations at lunch at the Cafe the Lodge, late night conversations at the Cabaret, and several panel conversations.

It was the panels on which the Gadfly focused (deftly avoiding ending with a preposition): the panel after “Prometheus / Redux,” after the “The Secret,” and after “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers.”

Gadfly, you know, lives to enable us to hear our real voices  — our public participation — without filter.

So yesterday Gadfly laid out for you the panel of 8 women moderated by Jennie Gilrain tied to the H. D. play “The Secret.” Today let’s lay out the panel after “Prometheus / Redux.” Tomorrow perhaps we’ll do the one after “Poets, Troubadours, and Troublemakers.”

Gadfly’s purpose will first be to simply present the panels, to enable you to “attend” them or attend them again, to provide — you know this is Gadfly’s modus operandi — the primary sources on which to base your own responses (there’s that grammatical deftness again) before he makes comment.

The “Prometheus / Redux” panel was moderated by Councilman Willie Reynolds.

Here Willie describes the general purpose of the 10-person panel to discuss “how we move forward as people committed to building a better Bethlehem,” and the panel members do short introductions: Gerald Stropnicky, Bob Drake, Matthew Turk, Bob George, Alicia Miller Karner, Dave Amelio, Olga Negron, Guellermo Lopez, Jr.

The panel

Willie kicks off the discussion by asking the panel “what was that thing you saw today [at the “Prometheus / Redux” play] that going forward — it could be an idea, a theme, it could be a spirit — that kinda going forward that you think is the most important thing for our community.”

Prometheus Redux panel 1

Touchstone Theatre wizard and star of “Prometheus / Redux” Bill George took the mic for a few minutes to articulate in impromptu fashion what Gadfly posted earlier as a good, concise statement of the theme of the Festival — constructing “a sense of ‘we’ that we have never accomplished before” — and turns to the panel with the question “How are we going to get to where we need to go? . . . What do we need to do?”

Prometheus Redux panel Bill George

Audience member Margot Pullman provocatively adds  to Bill’s question: “As we’re looking at progress, making progress, how do we do that in a way that includes the whole community without leaving people behind. It’s really easy to build the luxury apartments . . . how do we do that [make progress] without leaving Prometheus behind, all the Prometheuses?”

Prometheus Redux panel 2

The above video cuts off the last 2-3 panelist responses to Bill and Margot, so here is the audio that completes this segment of the discussion.

Moderator Willie and an audience member who did not give her name followed this segment of the discussion with valuable comments.

Prometheus Redux panel audience 1

And a woman who identified herself as “we are the Schutese” [pronounced Shooteze] from Allentown made another valuable comment that we will surely want to come back to.

Prometheus Redux panel audience 2

Willie brings discussion to a close asking the panel “in the spirit of what we just did, what is the soft work that each one of you guys is going to leave here to do a little more or what’s the kind of self-reflection that you guys might leave here thinking the play made me think a little bit more of doing this or this is what I’m going to take on as my responsibility?”

There you have the Prometheus panel. Listen in. Lots to chew on here . . .

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

“Who will follow the music?” The panel after “The Secret” play about H. D.

logo36th in a series of posts on H.D.logo

Gadfly’s not done with coverage of Touchstone Theatre’s “Festival UnBound” — not by a longshot. He will be featuring several of the panels that convened during the 10-days, panels where important conversations were occurring.

Listen to your high-achieving fellow townswomen talk about their lives.
What can we learn?

“Who will follow the music?”
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP: Inspirations and Obstacles
after a performance of “The Secret”
moderated by Jennie Gilrain

The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise.” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public.

The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?’ 

Moderator Jennie Gilrain, who also directed the play, here frames the panel:

And here introduces the panelists: Phyllis Alexander, Yalitza Corcino-Davis, Abriana Ferrari, Mary C. Foltz, Nancy Matos Gonzalez, Margaret Kavanagh, Emily Santana, Dr. Paige Van Wirt. See here for short biographies.

Here is the full panel discussion, broken into two parts. Gadfly will return shortly with edited video of each panelist, enabling a better focus on individual stories.

Festival UnBound
Closed but never forgotten

The Festival’s amazing “Sustainability Forum” for high school students

logoThe latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

There were so many wonderful experiences to be had during Festival UnBound. I wish I could have done them all. I wanted to highlight one event that was meaningful to me personally. Touchstone Theatre’s Festival Unbound was about having a conversation about where Bethlehem is going as a community from this time forward. The festival included a Sustainability Forum for high schools students. Students attending Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, Charter Arts, and Moravian Academy had an opportunity to tell the City their opinion on how to make Bethlehem a more sustainable community. 178 students submitted essays, which outlined their individual opinions on the most important way for Bethlehem to be more sustainable.

All of the essays were read by Paul Pierpoint, then the students were invited to attend the Saturday afternoon Sustainability Forum at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. Community leaders involved in sustainability and environmental projects were asked to help by facilitating small groups of students, where each student presented his or her idea to their group. Their ideas were summarized on a white board, and the students in each group voted on the one idea their group would present to everyone at the concluding session. The attending parents and interested citizens from Bethlehem were allowed to walk around and visit each group to hear the discussion.

[Here’s a short video of Paul Pierpoint commenting on the student essays at the panel discussion of “Prometheus / Redux.”]

It was an amazing experience for me to listen to the well thought-out, researched, and heartfelt opinions of these young people. Our future depends on us older citizens listening to them and using our decision-making abilities and positions of influence to make effective change to sustain our world for the future generations.

The 178 essays will be bound and given to Mayor Donchez and City Council for them to read, digest, and understand what our city’s youth feel will make our community a better, more sustainable place.

It was an honor to participate as a facilitator at the Forum along with notable and passionately involved members of our community. The other facilitators were Willie Reynolds (City Councilman), Steve Samuelson (PA State Representative), Darlene Heller  City Director of Planning), Don Miles (Sierra Club-Lehigh Valley Chapter and environmental attorney), Bruce Wilson (Lehigh Valley Green Builders), and Karen Beck Pooley (Board member of the Bethlehem Area School District). I was very happy to represent the Bethlehem Food Co-op and the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council.

Anne Hills and Reese, a young songwriter from Emmaus High School, started us out and ended our day with original music they composed and sang.

I apologize for not mentioning a couple of key people involved because I cannot remember everyone’s names.

I am grateful every day for the good in Bethlehem.

And thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.

Kathy

The Festival is over, but Gadfly will be posting for a while on the panels and other activities that were part of the Festival. Yes, thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.